America is in the middle of a demographic explosion, and we are now seeing the signs of a new “electoral” paradigm. With the results of last night’s election, Ayanna Pressley (congressional candidate for Massachusetts 7th District) advancing to the general election. Although this outcome was a shock to many, there is reason to believe that there will be more women candidates of color “winning” in the near future.
It’s notable she received 55,743 votes last night but a closer look at past election results reveals a winning path for future candidates of color and women. In 2013 Ayanna Pressley, an African American woman and the first woman of color ever elected to the Boston City Council, demonstrated how unifying the voters of color is key to maximizing the impact of voters of color (VOC).
Let me explain by comparing the results of Boston’s preliminary 2013 mayoral race with Pressley’s at-large 2013 city council race. Pressley ran among a pool of 20 candidates for one of four run-off spots. She won with 17% (42,915) of the votes cast for the City Council candidates. That same year, candidates Martin Walsh and John Connolly received 18% (20,854) of the vote and 17% (19,435) of the vote respectfully. Combined that’s only 40,289 total votes, 2,626 fewer votes than Pressley received in her race.
How was Pressley able to win more votes in comparison to two mayoral candidates — especially given the fact that Pressley competed in a larger pool of candidates? She won because she was able to consolidate her base of votes from women, people of color and progressives. In short, she had the opportunity to run as the only prominent woman of color. Let’s look at this from a demographic perspective using Ward 18, which encompasses Hyde Park — this neighborhood embodies one of the greatest VOC potentials candidates of color and women.
Here some important trends:
- This area is considered a super voter “sweet spot” – an area with a large pool of voters that consistently vote.
- Hyde Park’s African American and Latino populations grew 22% and 67% respectfully making people of color 78% of the population.
- Pressley won Ward 18 with 5,490 votes in 2013 and did really well this year too.
- In 2013, the top 3 mayoral candidates of color Charlotte Golar Richie, Felix Arroyo, and John Barros, split the Ward 18 vote 2314, 1160, and 1039 respectively.
The splintering of the vote was also seen in neighborhoods like Hyde Park where the lack of consensus among progressive groups and voters created conflicting loyalties. Arroyo grew up in Hyde Park but found it difficult to close the vote gap without networking and unifying efforts with other candidates like John Barros.
Needless to say, the demographic advantage doesn’t guarantee that multiple candidates of color can run in the same election and win. However, Pressley’s success points to an opportunity for investment in neighborhoods that may yield a significant return. This also means the opportunities in neighborhoods like Hyde Park have become prime openings for good candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough. We believe that if this electorate is engaged with resources, the right message, a good candidate, and a successful voter registration campaign – we may take a huge step forward towards electing a historic number of women of color.